New Organic Produce Association elects chairman, hires Russell Group |

New Organic Produce Association elects chairman, hires Russell Group

Five organic fruit and vegetable producers have formed the Organic Produce Association and elected Theojary “Theo” Crisantes Jr. of Wholesum, an Arizona produce company, as its first chairman.

The founding members are Nature Sweet Tomatoes, a Texas firm; Nature Fresh Farms, an Ohio and Ontario, Canada firm; Sunset, the brand name of Mastronardi Produce Ltd., an Ontario firm; Wholesum, an Arizona firm; and Mr. Lucky, a Mexican firm.

The members of the Organic Produce Association “are focused on science-based policymaking and the ability to be innovative while respecting the tradition of organics and the integrity of the USDA Organic Seal,” Randy Russell of the Russell Group, the group’s Washington representative, told The Hagstrom Report in an email.

According to the group’s website, the members are particularly focused on several controversial organic industry regulations and increasing funding for organic programs at the Agriculture Department.

“Organic sales and consumption are at an all-time high, topping $9 billion in 2021,” the group says on its website. “Meeting that demand and ensuring that affordable organic produce is available to those who want it will require smart policies facilitating the industry’s growth.”

OPA says it believes that “any growing method that adheres to the national organic regulations should be permitted, regardless of the growing procedure used.”

That’s a reference to proposals to prohibit hydroponic/aeroponic production and to create greenhouse and container production standards.

OPA is also opposed to proposals to require increased use of organic seeds.

“OPA members strongly support the use of organic seeds and support efforts to make them more available without making their use mandatory,” the group said. “This includes increased public investment in organic plant breeding and seed research.”

OPA also says the Continuous Improvement and Accountability in Organic Standards Act (HR 2918) introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., which would require USDA to implement NOSB recommendations, “would elevate the status of NOSB above a regular federal advisory committee.”

The new group is also campaigning for specific amounts. of money to be appropriated for USDA organic programs:

▪ National Organic Program, $24 million.

▪ Organic Transitions Research Program, $9 million.

▪ Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, $4 million.

▪ Organic Production and Market Data Initiative, $1 million.

▪ Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, $50 million.


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